Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Looking Forward to 2009 and
Reflecting on 2008
By Philippe Falle
One concern when running an offshore racing campaign is the management of expectations. It is true to say that for myself, 2008 was the best season of offshore racing I have ever had, with victories in both the BMW round Ireland Race and the RORC Madeira Race. However, what really made 2008 so very special were the people involved with the Madeira Race campaign.
The dedication, compassion, willingness to learn, humility and desire to have fun became the trademark qualities of a very special group of people. The sailing was both tough and exhilarating providing me with moments of pure exhilaration and mouth watering, adrenaline rushing fear. I openly declared on arrival back in Shamrock Quay, at the end of August, that I had just had the best month of my life. To this day I still feel the same and the memories have not faded. The same sentiment was echoed by several of my fellow team members, including Brian who is 69 years old!
Personally 2008 was a roller coaster ride of emotion complicated with personal issues and enhanced by some amazing sailing. On New Years Eve I felt very mixed emotions when reflecting on the year, knowing that the achievements and emotions of an extraordinary team, would be impossible to repeat. I was not sad to see the back of the year for many personal reasons, which were to become overshadowed by the euphoria of an incredible season of offshore sailing. For that I will always be grateful to my fellow team members who made it happen.
For many people who come and race with us our campaigns offer an escape from hectic and demanding work commitments. Most of our team members are very successful in their chosen careers and work extremely hard with immense pressures. Sailing provides them with a mechanism to release work related stresses, enabling them to become re-energised and enthusiastic for their professional lives. Ironically this is harder for me as my demanding career is sailing! It was therefore a revelation when a racing campaign that I was running became just the escape that I needed. It made me appreciate and understand what people get out of sailing and why it is so important to them.
As I have already pointed out, managing expectations is one of the hardest parts of managing a successful race campaign, remembering that achieving good results is only a small measurement of success. For our 2008 offshore campaign the superb result was actually a reward for the other successes, which were in fact of more importance to everyone. Winning was the icing on the cake and never the overriding objective or goal for anyone.
I am very much looking forward to another season of offshore racing on Puma Logic. There is undoubtedly a certain amount of apprehension as the season closes forever closer. Success brings with it added pressures, some of which are external and unavoidable. Most are self inflicted by ourselves and our fellow team members. Expectations contribute greatly to pressure and therefore how the team manage these expectations will be pivotal to the success of the 2009 campaign.
Over the past two years I have learnt a huge amount about myself, running a race team, managing expectations of a team and building a healthy respect between every team member. Many of those lessons were learnt the hard way from the mistakes I made in a previous year. I am a great believer in the old adage ‘there are no weak teams — just weak leaders.’ It is a philosophy that I embrace and wholeheartedly believe in.
Therefore, when a team that I was leading became dysfunctional, I had only myself to blame. It would have been easy to ignorantly lay the blame on the shoulders of others, but that would have been stupid. It would have achieved nothing and I would not have learnt a single thing about people and myself. Instead I spent the winter doing much soul searching and questioned many things about my approach, how to handle agendas and most importantly how to build a successful team.
These lessons were implemented last year in an attempt to undertake my most ambitious offshore campaign to date. I was very lucky to have a fantastic first mate in Dave Bright, who helped me regain my passion for offshore racing. This was mainly achieved through his no nonsense, honest and enthusiastic approach to offshore sailing. His passion rubbed off on myself and the rest of the team.
Now it is time to start planning for the 2009 campaign and building the team dynamics. The entire core team from the Madeira Race are returning to Puma with the addition of two new faces. I say ‘new’ but both Ben and Howard have sailed with Sailing Logic before and have already become very close friends.
It will be very difficult to repeat the euphoria of last year, the pioneering year, a year where several of us experienced the ‘best month of our lives.’ We have to accept that 2009 will be different and we need to build a new set of core values that were so important to us last year. All of these things in some ways add complications to the development and progress of the team. How we manage the pressures and expectations will be vital to our success.
However, I must re-emphasise the fact that we have a very special and motivated team who are dedicated to the success of Puma Logic. We cannot wait to get started, albeit it with certain amounts of apprehension, from all of us, for varying reasons. On my part I accept that this year will be different with new experiences. It is fantastic that we have two new additions to the team. They are already on the same emotional level and were staunch supporters of ours in 2008.
I will be approaching our Rolex Fastnet campaign with a renewed passion for racing combined with the same honest and enthusiastic commitment of last year. With such a fantastic bunch of team mates and a dedicated first mate we will succeed with everything we set out to do. All our goals will be met and the campaign will conclude with a group of people who are even closer than they were at the end of last season. These are my objectives entering into the 2009 offshore season.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Warsash Spring Series Gets Underway
Puma Logic’s extensive re-fit is now complete and she is back doing what she loves most — racing! After many hours of hard work and large amounts of money spent, Puma Logic is looking in excellent shape and raring to get the 2009 season started.
Race one provided the team aboard Puma Logic with disappointingly light winds which ranged between 1.5 and 5 knots for the entire race. Sadly Puma Logic could not find her form and was lagging at the back of the fleet at the end of the race.
On Sunday the weather was looking fantastic with 8 knots of wind and fabulous sunshine. Puma Logic had an excellent start and was 1st around the windward mark. The excitement was short lived as the next mark was missed, which resulted in Puma having to drop the kite and beat back to the mark! This was a great lesson in how to go from the front of the fleet to the back in a matter of minutes!
On the positive, the boat speed was excellent and Puma Logic was out pacing much of the fleet up wind. The teamwork was very good and everyone dealt with some difficult mark roundings with confidence. This resulted in well executed and slick manoeuvres.
The final result, with a position of 12th, is certainly not a true reflection of the performance capabilities of the team aboard Puma Logic and we very much look forward to seeing a big improvement in results over the next four weeks. Puma Logic has pace and the team has great potential. It is looking likely that next Sunday may provide us with stronger winds which the Reflex 38s relish.